Turkish budget carrier Pegasus is on track to reach pre-Covid capacity levels for the full year amid strong demand for inbound tourism, according to the airline’s new chief executive Guliz Ozturk.
Speaking to FlightGlobal at the IATA AGM in Doha, Ozturk cites “strong signals” on international traffic in particular during the March-May period, which suggest that Pegasus will have “a strong summer, leaving behind all the Covid fears and impact”.
In serving that demand, Ozturk describes the carrier’s growing fleet of Airbus A321neos as a “game-changer” in unit-cost terms, given the type offers greater fuel-efficiency and around 50 more seats than the smaller narrowbodies being replaced.
“In total this year, we expect to reach 2019 levels in terms of capacity,” she states, as early year challenges around the Omicron variant are offset by a stronger performance in the second quarter and into the third.
Inbound tourism is at the heart of the demand recovery, Ozturk says, with the favourable exchange rate of many currencies to the Turkish lira helping to make the country an especially attractive option for leisure travel.
“Turkey was always a charming destination for Tourists,” Ozturk states. “Now it is much more affordable.”
Furthermore, Ozturk describes as a “distinguishing factor” the “cost advantage” generated by Pegasus booking so much of its revenue from international passengers during the Covid-19 recovery.
Amid that trend, the carrier has increased the number of aircraft it bases at Antalya – a popular destination for inbound tourism traffic from Europe – from eight or nine pre-Covid to 15-16 today, she states.
Ozturk clarifies that this does not mean fleet reductions at other bases such as Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen and Izmir. Rather, “we are also growing our fleet”, she says.
In total, Ozturk explains that Pegasus is using a fleet of 91 jets to serve 125 destinations at present – 36 domestic and the rest international. Those metrics are up from 2019, when Pegasus served 111 destinations using 84 jets.
The carrier is due to take 20 A321neos this year, Ozturk says, and a further 17 in 2023, as it retires older aircraft and continues on a path to becoming an all-Airbus operator by 2025.
Today, Pegasus says it is operating 46 A320neos, 24 Boeing 737-800s, 11 A320ceos and 10 A321neos.